Best strains of probiotics for babies
Researchers of an Australian study found that the best probiotics for infants were ones that included 2-3 strains or species of probiotics (instead of just one). Here are the top three to look for:
1. B. bifidum is one of the first strains to colonize baby’s intestines and adheres to the intestinal wall better than other strains. It continues to be an important bacteria for digestion and nutrient absorption. It may help with infant skin conditions like baby eczema and yeast infections. It may also help with infant digestive issues such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), IBS, constipation, diarrhea, and even lung infections.
2. B. infantis is the strain that is most prevalent and powerful in infants and declines as we age. In fact, a new (and alarming) study shows that this strain may be going extinct in the Western world. This is a huge issue, as it crowds out pathogenic bacteria and helps with overall health and digestion. One review found that B. Infantis can reduce inflammation and support immune function.
3. L. reuteri is a strain that has been found to have many benefits for young children and infants. One study found that children ages 6 months to 3 years who took supplemental L. rheuteri had nearly one third fewer cases of diarrhea and half as many respiratory infections. Another study suggests that L. rheuteri is an excellent treatment for colic. It was also found to reduce the levels of bacteria that cause tooth decay!
How to Give Probiotics to Infants
Always, always, always talk to your pediatrician before giving baby any supplement. Also, always start slow with probiotics and watch for any bowel or behavior changes.
There are a few ways you can provide baby with probiotics:
How to give baby liquid probiotics
- Following the dosage suggestions on the particular product, add liquid probiotics to a little breast milk or formula.
- Alternatively, use a syringe to put liquid probiotics directly into baby’s mouth. This way baby is not getting any additional water (which can cause an imbalance in his or her electrolytes).
How to give baby powered probiotics
- Following the dosage suggestions on the particular product, add powdered probiotics to breast milk or formula.
- Alternatively, you can put the powdered probiotics directly on your breasts before feeding. To do so, apply my DIY nipple cream, then sprinkle the probiotic powder directly on top.
- When baby is eating solids, mix powdered probiotics into baby’s water cup or food.
Other Great Sources of Probiotics for Infants
In addition to probiotic supplements, baby can great probiotics from:
Breastfeeding is the best way to keep baby’s gut lining intact and healthy. Your milk will supply baby with probiotics and immunoglobulin A (IgA), which helps seal the gut lining. For the greatest benefits, consume plenty of probiotic-rich fermented foods, like kefir, raw sauerkraut and pickles, yogurt, miso, etc. This will help enrich your own bacterial balance, which will help your milk and baby.
And if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, there are formula options that can still help keep baby’s gut healthy.
Breast milk yogurt
Food is the best way to boost your good bacteria, especially for young children with delicate systems.
Obviously, we can’t give babies true solids until around 6 months old, but we can give them one food at a very young age: Breast milk yogurt.
- Mix about an ounce of breast milk with 1/8 teaspoon of infant probiotics.
- Let the mixture sit on the counter overnight.
- Feed to baby with a spoon.
Of course, always check with your child’s pediatrician before giving to your child.
When baby is old enough for solids, add naturally-fermented foods to his or her diet. Feeding them early will help baby develop a taste for sour and fermented foods.
- Start with just the juice of these probiotic powerhouses—sauerkraut or pickle juice, for example. Use a spoon or mix them into puree.
- As baby gets use to solids, add in small amounts of kefir or yogurt.
- Gradually continue introducing other fermented foods, eventually serving baby all the fermented foods you love.
Common Questions About Baby Probiotics
Are probiotics safe for infants?
Studies show that probiotics are not only safe, but very effective in reducing daily crying time, spit up, and constipation during the first three months of life.
Probiotics or prebiotics added to infant formula and other foods marketed for use in children do not appear to be harmful to healthy infants and children. – AAP
Still, it is very important to talk to your pediatrician before giving baby anything but breast milk.
Can probiotics cause upset tummies in babies?
Quite the contrary. Clinical trials suggest baby probiotics actually soothe upset tummies. In fact, babies taking probiotics had fewer emergency department visits, needed less medication for stomach problems, had more regular bowel movements, and spit up less.
Can baby probiotics cause gas?
According to researchers, probiotics may actually help reduce gas in babies. Studies suggest babies the bacterial makeup is different in the stomachs of babies with colic, and researchers hypothesize that these differences may cause gas, bloating, and discomfort that leads to colic.
In a review of 12 studies to examine the effects of probiotics, researchers found that infants taking probiotics cried for about an hour less each day—possibly as a result of less gas pain.
Can you give a baby too much probiotics?
Always follow the dosage information on your probiotic supplement, and be sure to get your doctor’s approval.
It may, however, give you peace of mind to know that, according to the AAFP, “there is no evidence that higher dosages are unsafe; however, they may be more expensive and unnecessary.”
Bottom Line on Probiotics for Infants
Imbalanced gut flora can be inherited, and may cause serious health issues in the future. Adding probiotics for infants to baby’s diet, either through food or supplementation, can help your baby have the best possible start.